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Welcome aboard, red-headed stepchild

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IBM has finally invited the red-headed stepchild in its server line to join the rest of the family, we can exclusively reveal.

For months, the x450 - IBM's first Itanium 2 server - has been relegated to a minor role in IBM's marketing masterplan, but sources have now disclosed full details.

Even though IBM announced its plans to build an Itanium 2 system in the middle of last year, the company has wavered on support for Intel's chip. IBM makes its own Power processors and does not need the heavily HP-backed Itanium eating into its RISC business just yet.

IBM's reluctance to ship an Itanium 2-based server was made clear earlier this year when an IBM spokesman called Itanium a science project and a top Unix executive said it was his mission to make sure Itanic does not succeed.

Starting today, however, IBM has started shipping the server. We have the full details and news of an important patch for the server, too.

Just the fax

There are a variety of configurations for the four processor system. Users can pick between 900MHz and 1.0GHz Itanium 2 chips. The 1.0GHz processors come in two flavors as well -- one with a 1.5Mbyte Level 3 cache and the other with the large 3Mbyte Level 3 cache.

The 4U high system supports up to 40G bytes of memory. has six PCI-X slots and dual-channel Ultra320 SCSI and Gigabit Ethernet controllers.

The systems use the same Enterprise X-Architecture chipset --code-named Summit -- as IBM's current Xeon servers. Although, IBM is calling it the XA-64 copper-based core logic chipset on the x450.

There have been rumors that IBM has had some trouble getting the x450 out the door due to memory controller problems.

Deepak Advani, vice president of xSeries servers at IBM, would not confirm any such problem and said that IBM's delays in getting an Itanium 2-based system out have not hurt it when competiting with HP, although the company did lose some business to its rival.

"To my knowledge, we have not lost a lot of deals to HP as far as Itanium is concerned," he said.

Bugfix

IBM has certainly had a problem with keyboard support on the x450. A USB keyboard will from time to time generate extra characters when a user types. IBM users have seen between 10-20 extra characters pop up on screen. This problem, however, should be fixed by June 6, our sources say.

An x450 with one 900MHz Itanic 2 will start at $25,999. The price stretches up to $40,799 for a server with two 1.0GHz chips.

Once this system hits the market, Dell will be the last major Wintel vendor left to join the Itanic 2 party. The company is expected to wait until Madison chips come out later this year to ship its systems.

It's unclear how hard IBM will push the x450. It is after all still a bastard child in its 64bit line of systems. For the time being, however, the x450 will get a place at the table in those nice customer dinners. ®

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